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No. 8 Oklahoma producing all-around dominance

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No. 8 Oklahoma producing all-around dominance

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) This is how dominant No. 8 Oklahoma has been leading up to Saturday night's showdown against No. 5 Notre Dame: At times during a 52-7 blowout against Kansas, even defensive coordinator Mike Stoops thought it was sort of dull.

His first-team defense didn't allow a point for a second straight week, despite a performance that he declared was not ``overly sharp.''

``Overall, it was a pretty businesslike four quarters for us. They didn't come in and do a whole lot, and you know, we just played,'' Stoops said.

``It kind of got a little boring. We just played our base defense most of the night and just played ball.''

The Sooners (5-1, 3-1 Big 12) have been clicking not only on defense but in all three phases of the game since a home loss against Kansas State a month ago.

The starting offense has scored on 15 of its last 20 drives, including 12 touchdowns. And on Saturday night, the special teams units produced the first game in the program's storied history with touchdowns on both a kickoff and a punt return.

``I think we are in a good spot,'' quarterback Landry Jones said after a three-touchdown outing. ``The key now is to not get complacent, not think we have it all figured out and continue to work, continue to sharpen, continue to do the things that we're supposed to be doing.

``I think we've got a shot at this thing.''

Jones and the rest of his Oklahoma teammates never gave up hope for a national championship after a 24-19 loss to Kansas State on Sept. 22 in their first marquee game of the season. Beating Notre Dame would bolster their case to make it into the title game as a one-loss team, if enough of the undefeated teams ahead of them lose.

``I think we should embrace it. It's your time to shine, time to show everyone not just individually but as a unit, as a group and as a team where we stand,'' safety Tony Jefferson said. ``We've got a lot to prove. ... We're fighting back, and I think we're fighting back real well.''

Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel seems to be putting the pieces together better after an off night against K-State. He has leaned more heavily on fullback Trey Millard as an X-factor instead of using the team's inexperienced tight ends, and he seamlessly added receiver Jalen Saunders to the mix after he was declared eligible by the NCAA two weeks ago.

``We've got a lot of weapons, got a lot of guys that can make those big plays. It's nice. We're starting to click, that's for sure,'' Jones said. ``We're starting get our momentum and find who we are as an offense and what kind of offense we want to be.

``If we keep playing this way, we're going to have a lot more success on the field.''

This week figures to be a much stiffer test. Only Alabama is allowing fewer points per game than Notre Dame's 9.4, and the Fighting Irish are also yielding the sixth-fewest yards in the nation.

``Certainly, we understand who is coming into town, what's happened in the past, but certainly what type of football team they are right now,'' Heupel said. ``It's a huge test for us offensively. They are playing as well as anybody in the country defensively.''

Coach Bob Stoops called it perhaps the program's most anticipated game since the No. 2 Sooners hosted top-ranked Nebraska in 2000. That victory was the last time Oklahoma fans stormed Owen Field, and it was a huge step on the way to Stoops' only national championship.

``I think they're excited. You've got to play great defense to win. I think our guys feel good about the challenge,'' Mike Stoops said.

``We know they have a great defense as well. The team that plays the best defense is going to have the best chance to win. That's just how we feel, and every time we step on the field we want to have the best defense. Our guys are starting to take a lot of pride and effort in those words. It's going to be fun.''

Jefferson, the team's leading tackler, said the Sooners have bought in and are ready for the test.

``Next week we get to see who's the best defense. We've got 60 minutes to prove that,'' Jefferson said. ``We look forward to the challenge. I know our offense will be ready, as well as the defense.''

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Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

LAS VEGAS—Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t expecting to lose their head coach less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.

But business is business, Ovi said, and Barry Trotz is handling his by attempting to capitalize on claiming the championship.

“It’s sad,” Ovechkin said on the red carpet at the NHL Awards, where he accepted his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy on Wednesday night. “Obviously, we won together.”

The Caps’ captain also thanked Trotz for directing him—and his teammates—to new heights.  

“First of all, [I want to] thank him for a great job to be our coach, to be our dad, to give us a chance to win,” Ovechkin said. “But then again, it’s a business. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine and I wish him luck.”

Backstrom, meanwhile, said he was caught off guard by Trotz’s decision to step down over a contract stalemate with the team. Trotz asked for $5 million per for five seasons; the Caps balked over the terms Trotz’s camp sought.   

“I was a little surprised, obviously,” Backstrom said. “I heard the scenario.”

Like Ovechkin, though, Backstrom praised the job Trotz did during his four-year tenure.

“He’s done a great job in Washington,” Backstrom said. “We obviously have him to thank for a lot. He’s done a tremendous job of schooling us and winning a championship. No one is going to take that away from him.”

Trotz’s next move is unclear, but he’s a free agent and currently eligible to negotiate with any team. The Islanders are the only team with an opening for a head coach.

As for Washington, GM Brian MacLellan said that associate coach Todd Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz.

Ovechkin said he thinks Reirden would be a good fit.

“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it’s not our thing to say who’s going to be head coach, but if it’s going to be Todd, it’s going to be fun.”

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A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

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Daniel Duffy on Twitter/@RealArtOfWords

A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

How do you make a photo of Alex Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time even more memorable?

You make it out of all the Capitals' game scores this year, of course.

Capitals fan and artist Daniel Duffy (@RealArtOfWords) posted a phenomenal finished piece commemorating the Cup win on Wednesday, June 20. It's a little meta and astounding to look at, but very fun to try and read. If you want to relive the glory that was the parts of the 2017-18 Capitals season, check out the piece.

The piece, which appears to be done in a traditional medium like pen or marker, holds the team faced, arena played at, and final score of every game. It uses six colors and over sixty lines of text. Ovechkin roars as he holds the Stanley Cup overhead, the white away jersey shaded with bits of grey text. It takes a skilled eye to sort text and colors into shapes and shading, but Daniel did a fantastic job! It's awesome to see a fanbase create different interpretations of iconic moments. We'll surely see more of Ovechkin in this moment.

Just as we thought we were going to get tired of the celebration, fans find new ways to surprise us. Stay creative, Caps fans!

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